On this day, 145 years ago, the Union Army executed a 17-year-old boy named David Dodd in Little Rock, Arkansas. A notebook containing the positions of Union troops had been found in his possession, which led to him being tried and convicted as a spy for the Confederate Army. After more than a week of being held prisoner in a local arsenal, the boy was led to his execution seated in his own coffin in the back of a wagon. Reportedly, there was an audience of thousands of people for David Dodd's final moments. The young man faced his death bravely according to accounts of the time. However, his hanging apparently failed to go smoothly.
The tailgate of the wagon Dodd and his coffin rode in was propped up with a plank to form a makeshift trapdoor. The boy was made to stand on the tailgate with his hands and legs bound, while a noose was placed around his neck. The executioner discovered that he'd failed to bring a blindfold; a problem that was resolved when Dodd volunteered the handkerchief from his own back pocket. The plank was kicked out from under the tailgate, causing Dodd to drop. The rope from which he was hung had not been properly measured to take stretching into a account. The young man's toes were able to touch the ground, causing him to slowly strangle as he struggled in his last moments. A Union soldier leapt to action and pulled on the rope in an attempt to decrease the boy's suffering by speeding up the execution. David Dodd is said to have taken roughly five minutes to expire in this manner. Many onlookers are said to have become ill from witnessing the event, with some of the crowd passing out as the young man struggled gruesomely in his final moments.
David Dodd's execution rallied Confederate supporters in Arkansas at a time when the state had been considering rejoining the Union. Dodd became known as "The Boy Martyr of the Confederacy." He was buried less than a mile away, in Mount Holly Cemetery (reportedly a hot spot for paranormal activity). There are multiple memorials in Arkansas for Dodd, including one that stands where he was executed.